The Questionable Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Planning Process

Like many people in Burgess Hill, I am against the Town Council’s plans for 4,000 extra houses on green fields.

I have just received Burgess Hill Town Council’s “A Neighbourhood Plan for Burgess Hill”, which claims to be “a new way of helping local communities to influence the future of the area in which they live”.

How can that be true, when Mid Sussex District Council’s own presentation on Neighbourhood Planning, states:

“The Examiner will consider the (Neighbourhood) Plan and the representations received. The considerations will be: –Is the Plan in general conformity with local and national policies? If it does not meet these tests then the Examiner will recommend changes”

That means, that if a Neighbourhood Plan is drawn up after ‘consultation’ with local residents, which is not in accordance with the District Plan then it will be changed by ‘The Examiner’ to reflect the District Plan’s objectives.

An objective of the District Plan, (as represented by Burgess Hill’s Town Wide Strategy, which it has adopted), is to build 4,000 houses in Burgess Hill. The decision to build 4,000 houses in Burgess Hill therefore has already in effect been made and will be pushed through regardless of any public ‘consultation’ and the resulting Neighbourhood Plan.

According to section 3.8 of the District Plan, the work leading up to the Town Wide Strategy “has been the subject of public consultation”. Furthermore “the District Council supports this work, which it sees as a leading example of the “bottom up” approach now being promoted through the Localism Act and National Planning Policy Framework”.

Shall we examine just what is meant by this so called “public consultation” and “bottom up” approach and what Burgess Hill Town Council refer to as “strong local support” in their Town Wide Strategy.

The Town Council used a questionnaire at public exhibitions, with 5 questions. Not one question mentioned anything about 4,000 houses. Question 5 was nearest with the very vague “Based on the information provided would you support this Plan for Burgess Hill?”

From a population of over 30,000, they received only 825 responses or 2.8%. Of those 825, only 462 or 56% said ‘yes’ to Question 5. Therefore only 1.5% of the population have said ‘yes’ to a question that makes no reference to 4,000 houses on green fields.

Is this really “a leading example of a “bottom up” approach”, of “public consultation” or of “strong local support” for 4,000 houses on green fields?

Here’s a copy of the Burgess Hill Town Council’s Town-Wide Strategy Questionaire.
burgess-hill-town-wide-strategy-questionaire
Notice the questions that it doesn’t ask. For instance, do you wish for Burgess Hill to take 4,000 new homes.

Questionaire Feedback
Here are the results of the town council’s questionaire.
BHTC Questionnaire – Feedback